Morning Five: 08.21.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 21st, 2013


  1. It’s never too early — repeating, never too early — to begin talk of undefeated seasons. After all, all 350 Division 1 basketball schools are unbeaten in August, and September, and even October. A fair number will make it through November unscathed, but by the time we hit the new year, roughly a dozen or fewer will be standing. To make it to February without a blemish is rare indeed, while standing with a zero in the L column at the start of March is just short of impossible. Still, it makes for fun speculation no matter the time of year, and with the release of Kentucky‘s 2013-14 schedule on Tuesday, the chatter has already become rampant on the likelihood of John Calipari’s team running the table. The marketing guru himself uses the opportunity to “chase perfection” in his pitch to elite recruits, and he’s certainly got enough raw talent on board next year to at least entertain the question. Of course, dozens of more experienced and talented teams than next year’s Wildcats have proven unable to win every game on the schedule, so you’ll forgive us if we, along with a few other veteran watchers of the sport such as TSN’s Mike DeCourcy, collectively roll our eyes at the very notion (DeCourcy gives five reasons why UK won’t do it). Not only will UK not go unbeaten next season, it says here that they’d best be served by losing a couple before heading into March Madness — the last team to lose fewer than two games en route to a national title were those same legendary 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.
  2. Sticking around the Bluegrass State, the UK Athletics Hall of Fame announced its 2013 incoming class on Tuesday, and one of the names on the list makes you wonder whether enough time and water under the bridge has passed for Kentucky fans to again embrace one of their five national championship coaches, Tubby Smith. When Smith alighted north for Minnesota in 2007, the attitude among the majority of Wildcat faithful was one of good riddance. Smith’s recruiting struggles had manifested in a series of disappointing seasons in the mid-2000s, and while the head coach was almost universally liked and respected as a person, he had unquestionably worn out his welcome in Lexington. A harrowing subsequent two years with Billy Gillispie led to the John Calipari era and all the riches that followed, but six years of (mostly) success isn’t really all that long to heal old wounds. It will be interesting to hear the partisan crowd’s response to the announcements at the school’s football game versus Florida during induction weekend on September 28 — will they cheer Smith for his accomplishments (one national title and a boatload of SEC championships); will they boo him for his lack of recruiting and postseason failures (several first weekend NCAA defeats); or will they politely applaud him, in much the same way that a crowd respectfully recognizes an academic speaker at a conference? We shall see.
  3. A somewhat weird story came out of Austin yesterday, in that returning Texas forward and leading scorer Ioannis Papapetrou has decided to leave school to sign a contract with a European professional team. The deal is reported for approximately $2 million over a five-year period, which, no disrespect to UT-Austin, is still quite a bit more in monetary value than the great state university can provide. Where this puts Rick Barnes’ team for next season, and by extension, his program, is in quite a quandary. Despite a strong number of elite recruits who have passed through Texas in the past five years, the program only has two NCAA wins to show for it. Furthermore, last year’s CBI squad that finished with an overall losing record of 16-18 has been completely gutted. Three other players transferred and/or left for pro contracts, and with an annual contract for Barnes ranking among the titans in the sport, you have to wonder how long the leash is that he will have this season with such a young, inexperienced squad.
  4. It seems like every summer some key player gets injured during a team’s international trip and this year is no exception as TCU rising star Devonta Abron tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the entire upcoming season. Abron averaged 7.4 PPG and 5.9 RPG for Trent Johnson’s moribund team last season, but the future appeared bright for the rising junior who had developed into a nicely efficient player around the rim. The Big 12 is tough enough for a program like the Horned Frogs; they certainly could have used some better news as they move into their second full season as a member of a major conference basketball league.
  5. Speaking of international summer trips, let’s finish this one with an odd what-comes-around-goes-around story involving the Iowa Hawkeyes and a long lost but very divisive footnote to its hardwood past. While on a five-game tour of France, former Hawkeye Pierre Pierce (where else would he be with a name like Pierre?) showed up as an opponent on a French professional team, and somewhat unbelievably, hit the game-winning shot against his old school in overtime. If you’re new to the story, Pierce got into quite a bit of trouble involving allegations of sexual misconduct while at Iowa from 2002-05 (ultimately getting tossed from the team and serving nearly a year in prison), and the impassioned defense of his star player by then-head coach Steve Alford still upsets more than a few people around the sport. Alford in fact had to answer questions about it again upon taking the UCLA job this past spring. Still, the serendipity of Pierce getting his own shining moment against his old school a decade later from pure unadulterated happenstance is simply astonishing. Whether Hawkeye Nation appreciated the pure comedy of it, we’ll have to let you be the judge of that one.
Share this story

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 15

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 18th, 2013

We don’t have many of these rankings left this season, but the Big 12 isn’t getting any easier to decipher as we inch closer to March (less than four weeks until Selection Sunday). The Big 12 still has a good chance to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but Baylor and Iowa State don’t have much margin for error the last three weeks of the regular season. The Cyclones are a consensus #10 seed and the Bears are an #11 seed on the latest Bracket Matrix mock bracket. The top of the conference is more of a mess, though. Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Kansas State are 9-3 but it doesn’t mean there isn’t distinctness with each record. For instance, Kansas State is 1-2 against the other first place teams while Kansas is 2-1. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is 1-1 but plays host to the Kansas schools in the coming weeks. They are also fortunate in that two of their final three road games are against West Virginia and TCU. And that’s why the Cowboys are #1 this week.

Tier I:

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

1) Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 91-67 at Texas Tech, W (OT) 84-79 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Wednesday vs Kansas, 8:00 PM, Saturday at West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: After struggling around the turn of the year and dropping three out of four, the Cowboys began playing like their talent suggests and are winners of eight of their last nine games. They have an opportunity on Wednesday to become the first Big 12 team to sweep Bill Self in a season as the Jayhawks come into Gallagher-IBA Arena, where the Cowboys have won two out of three against the Jayhawks dating back to 2007-08.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Marcus Smart: Smart had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in the upset over Kansas on Feb. 2. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals against Texas a week later, and on Saturday against Oklahoma, Smart finished with 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the overtime victory.

2) Kansas (21-4. 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 83-62 vs Kansas State, W 73-47 vs Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Oklahoma State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs TCU, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: It doesn’t really matter that top-10 teams have been consistently falling the last few weeks, but it can give Kansas fans a small sense of relief knowing that every perceived top team in the country has its flaws as well as the Jayhawks, who rebounded nicely last Monday with a 21-point win over Kansas State when they desperately needed a 21-point win. Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State could decide the Big 12 championship.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Ben McLemore: McLemore had 30 points against Kansas State on 9-13 shooting, a cool 69.2%. In seven of his last ten games he shot over 50% from the floor. But he can still do more, attempting 10 or less shots in six of those games.  Shoot the ball, Ben.

3) Kansas State (20-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 83-62 at Kansas, W 81-61 vs Baylor

This Week: Tonight vs West Virginia, 8:00 PM, Saturday at Texas, 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: Monday’s loss at Kansas hurt, but it wasn’t all that unexpected. If they can take care of Baylor on the road on March 2, there’s still a chance the Wildcats could be 14-3 heading into the final regular season game at Oklahoma State on March 9. The remaining schedule sets up that well for K-State, with their next five games against the bottom five teams in the conference.
  • Player Stepping Up: Sophomore G Angel Rodriguez: He has a 2.5:1 Assist to Turnover Ratio on the season and is averaging an efficient 19.6 PPG his last three games. In that stretch, he is 46.3% from the floor and 41.6% from three-point range.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 13

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 4th, 2013

It was another wild week in the Big 12, starting last Monday with West Virginia’s near-upset of Kansas in Morgantown and ending with the ever-inconsistent Oklahoma State Cowboys dropping 85 points in a rare win in Allen Fieldhouse. It helped push the Cowboys back up the standings while Baylor, who dropped both of its games last week, fell three spots to #5. We still have six projected teams in the NCAA Tournament as of now — Kansas, Kansas State,  Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Iowa State — and the big wins by OSU and ISU look to have pushed them off the bubble for now. Here’s where we stand this week:

Markel Brown led the Cowboys in a rare win in Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

Markel Brown led the Cowboys to a rare win in Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

1) Kansas (19-2, 7-1 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Projected NCAA Seed: #1

Last Week: W 61-56 at West Virginia, L 85-80 vs Oklahoma State

This Week: Wednesday at TCU, 8:00 PM, Saturday at Oklahoma, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks were due for a loss after winning 18 straight games and walking a tightrope most of January. It finally came on Saturday against Oklahoma State. It also ended the Jayhawks’ 33-game home winning streak and 16-game home winning streak against Oklahoma State, dating back to 1989. Turnovers — especially at the point guard position — have been a problem for KU of late, and Saturday was no different. Elijah Johnson committed four turnovers, including a last-second mishap that prevented Ben McLemore from doing his best Mario Chalmers impersonation.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Ben McLemore: He has scored in double figures every game in 2013 and had 23 in Saturday’s loss. He is shooting an impressive 50% from the field and 45.5% from three-point range.

2)Kansas State (17-4, 6-2)
Previous Ranking: 2
Projected NCAA Seed: #6

Last Week: W 83-57 vs Texas, W 52-50 at Oklahoma

This Week: Tuesday at Texas Tech, 7:00 PM, Saturday vs Iowa State, 5:00 PM

  • Rundown: It hasn’t always been the case, but Saturday’s win over Oklahoma in Norman was big for the Wildcats. They have won 10 out of 12 and sit just one game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings, thanks to Angel Rodriguez’s two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to give them the 52-50 win. It was a rare win in a game where leading scorer Rodney McGruder, who finished with seven points, was quiet offensively.
  • Player Stepping Up: Junior G Will Spradling: Spradling averages 8.5 PPG, but has scored in double figures in three of his last five games. He had 15 in the first meeting with Oklahoma and had 12 points in Saturday’s win while shooting 62.5%.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story